Lucifer spat the half-chewed canapé into his hand. He looked around for someplace to dispose of it before slipping it into the trouser pocket of a passing partygoer.
His two colleagues, Samael and Malpas, shook their heads.
“Instant mash,” said Lucifer, “revolting stuff.” He washed the taste down with the rest of his wine.
Samael spotted someone in the crowd and nudged Malpas with an elbow. “Ariel from HR is here. This could be your night.”
Lucifer scanned the party. He didn’t notice Ariel. Or any of the revelry taking place in the Celestial Hall. All he saw was complacency on the faces around him. Cheap suits and cocktail dresses. Tacky sequinned Santa hats bobbing on a wave of overly cheerful hubbub. It was the same every Christmas.
A cherub fluttered beside them with a tray of drinks. Lucifer swiped another wine and took a hefty gulp. He loosened the tie biting into his neck.
“You alright, Lou?” asked Samael. “You seem uptight.”
Lucifer sighed, ruffling the feathers of his mottled wings. “We work tirelessly, year in and year out. All for what? Instant mash and a pat on the halo?”
“Divine servitude,” said Malpas. “There’s no greater glory.”
Lucifer snorted. “Yeah, right. Humans don’t respect us, Mal. Most of them don’t even believe in us. So why believe in them? Maybe it’s time we raised a little… well, whatever it is you raise when you want to cause a scene.”
A trumpet blasted over the loudspeakers, along with the squeal of feedback. The crowd hushed as a tall, angular figure graced the stage, wings folded neatly behind him. He tested the microphone with a tap.
“Hello, everyone. I’d like to extend a warm welcome to ..this year’s Christmas party. For those who don’t know me, my name is Jeremiel and I have been blessed with overseeing this magnificent sector of the Celestial Kingdom.”
Jeremiel acknowledged the cheers with a humble nod. “It’s been an incredibly busy year for our company. As we all know, humans love to breed.”
Laughter — and a few wolf whistles — filled the hall.
“Each year there are more and more souls for us to process. Well, it gives me great pleasure to share with you today the solution to our rapidly increasing workload.”
Jeremiel motioned to the side of the stage. “Uriel, would you come up here, please.”
A spritely angel in a slim fit suit joined Jeremiel. The crowd applauded — all except Lucifer, who rolled his eyes and made a vulgar noise with his mouth.
“Uri is a rising star in our R&D department. His latest project will undoubtedly revolutionize the soul transportation industry. Ladies and gentlemen, we present to you…”
Uriel held up a flawless white bird in an open palm.
Jeremiel beamed with delight. Faces in the crowd looked around at one another.
“A dove?” asked someone near the stage.
“Close,” said Jeremiel. “This is D.O.V.I.E. A Divine Operations Vehicle for Insertion and Extraction. Our little friend here looks like a dove, coos like a dove, but is in fact a sophisticated courier drone capable of delivering souls to and from Earth.”
A bewildered murmur spread through the crowd, followed by wild applause. Lucifer guzzled the rest of his glass. The wine stung his cheeks. His wings trembled as he struggled to—
The words boomed throughout the hall, instantly dispelling all cheer. Shrieks rang out amongst the partygoers. One of the cherubs fainted, crashing to the ground with a tray of drinks.
Lucifer glanced around for the grand blasphemer.
All eyes were on him.
“Oh…” he muttered.
“Lou?” asked Jeremiel in a strangled voice.
Lucifer cleared his throat, puffed out his chest.
“Right. Well. First it was humans. Then free will for humans, and all the joy that brought us. And now… D.O.V.I.E.”
Lucifer dropped his wine glass; he wasn’t sure if it was deliberate. “Tell me, Jerry, how many hard-working angels will this put out of a job?”
Uriel leaned into the microphone. “That’s not—“
“Shut it, Urinal!” Lucifer smacked his hands together.
The bird in Uriel’s palm exploded in a plume of blood and feathers. More screams from the crowd. Another cherub dropped to the floor.
“Instant mash…” said Lucifer.
Uriel choked a sob. He launched from the stage, swooping straight for Lucifer. The two angels crashed to the ground in a tangle of wings and fists as the hall erupted into chaos.
Lucifer sat in the plush office, holding an ice pack to a cheek as Jeremiel regarded him from across the desk.
“HE’s not happy, Lou,” said Jeremiel. “And you know how much it takes for HIM not to be happy.”
Jeremiel pushed out a long breath. “You had such promise. Employee of the millennium twice in a row… and now this.” He leaned forward and offered Lucifer a tightly bound scroll.
Lucifer snatched the scroll. He broke the seal and mouthed the words as he read the parchment.
“You’re demoting me?”
“You staged a revolt at our Christmas party,” said Jeremiel matter-of-factly.
“Hardly a revolt, Jerry.”
“Nevertheless, you’re being reassigned to the mailroom. Effective immediately.”
Lucifer sat up in his chair. “The mailroom? It’s dark down there. And hotter than… well, whatever’s hotter than the hottest thing there is.”
“That may be, but perhaps sorting through humanity’s thoughts and prayers might teach you a little humility.”
Lucifer went to speak but Jeremiel silenced him with a stern gesture. “HIS word is final, Lou.” Jeremiel held out an open hand. “Good luck in your new venture.”
Lucifer ignored the hand. He stood up. “This isn’t over, Jerry. I’ll work my way up to the top. Mark my words.”
“Great. You can start by working your way to the elevator… and then pressing the button for the bottom floor.”
Lucifer snarled, turned, and almost tripped over something on his way out the door.
“Steady on your feet, Lou,” said Jeremiel as he straightened the items on his desk. “It’s a long way down.”